Mustin Goes from Small-College Sub to 'Bama Starter

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - The Crimson Tide's Darren Mustin got the little nudge he needed for his leap of faith in a hotel parking lot some 2,000 miles away from home.

The Middle Tennessee State linebacker was considering giving up his scholarship to walk on at Alabama while on a mission trip. He says he went to California, pulled into his hotel and there was this big Alabama car just sitting there with 'Roll Tide' on the back of it.

Mustin of Brentwood, Tenn., took that as a sign he should go to Alabama.

Two years later, Mustin has won a scholarship and likely a starting job at inside linebacker for Alabama entering Saturday's opener with Western Carolina.

It's an improbable journey from small-college backup to major college starter that is far more common in reverse.

Coach Nick Saban was hired and the Tide switched to a 3-4 defense employing four linebackers instead of three. Thus, a starting spot was open for Mustin to pursue alongside returning starter Prince Hall.

After spring practices, Mustin was preparing to apply for yet more student loans when his father urged him to talk to Saban.

"Don't worry about it," Saban told him. Four Tide players had just been placed on medical scholarship, and the coach gave Mustin one of the available scholarships.

Mustin says he always believed he had Southeastern Conference talent. If you don't believe in yourself, he figures, "nobody else will."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)